2013 INDUCTEE David MacLennan, PhD Cells, Genetics & Genomics, Skin, Bones, Muscles & Joints


July 3, 1937

(Swan River, Manitoba )


June 23, 2020


PhD, Purdue University (1963)

Awards & Honours:

2012: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

2008: Member of the Order of Ontario

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Described how calcium release channels and calcium pumps work and how mutations in these proteins cause inherited muscle diseases

Sketch of David MacLennan, PhD

An interdisciplinary researcher who developed our understanding of normal and abnormal muscle function

As a newly independent investigator in 1969, Dr MacLennan embarked on the isolation and characterization of a Ca2+ ATPase from a then obscure membrane system, the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). He went on to describe the mechanism of action of the Ca2+ pump, the structure and function of many other muscle proteins involved in Ca2+ signalling in muscle, the genes encoding these proteins, and the genetic basis for muscle diseases caused by mutations in these genes.

These earlier studies allowed Dr. MacLennan to identify patients who are susceptible to malignant hyperthermia (MH) or to exercise-induced sudden cardiac death. MH Patients are at risk of fatal reactions to anaesthetics – if identified, they can be treated with safe anaesthetics.

Key Facts

Defined the functional characteristics of several novel proteins

Discovered the gene mutation that leads to Brody Disease

Developed the technology required to carry out expression and site-directed mutagenesis of calcium ions located in the SR

Developed the diagnostic test for MH mutation in swine and, as a result, contributed to significant economic benefit to the swine industry

Held multiple patents

The Institute of Scientific information included him in a small group of scientists whose work has been proven to be “highly cited”

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Dr. MacLennan’s career is a testament to the benefits of scientific excellence, passion, and commitment. For over 40 years, he endeavoured to understand the structures of function of the SR and calcium ions. In time, Dr. MacLennan's efforts led to the definition of the protein components of the SR and to understanding the structure and functions of the Ca2+ pump. His experimental and conceptual breakthroughs have enhanced basic knowledge, improved patient care and facilitated economic savings in the agricultural industry.

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  • David MacLennan Induction

    David MacLennan inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Halifax (Nova Scotia)

  • David MacLennan published his research on the Ca2+ATPase in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 1970

    Cells, Genetics & Genomics

    On the 100th anniversary of the Journal, his article was named a “classic JBC paper.”

  • Dr. David MacLennan published his research on the genetic basis of malignant hyperthermia in swine in the journal "Trends in Pharmacological Sciences"

    Skin, Bones, Muscles & Joints

  • D. MacLennan Banting & Best Department of Medical Research

    Dr. MacLennan became the Chair of the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at the University of Toronto

    He served in this role for ten years.

  • Dr. MacLennan returned to Canada to become an Associate Professor in the Banting and Best Department of Medial Research at the University of Toronto

  • Dr. MacLennan began his studies of the SR—a calcium storage and release compartment inside muscle cells

    Cells, Genetics & Genomics

  • Dr. MacLennan became a postdoctoral fellow, and later Assistant Professor, at the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin


Recognized nationally and internationally as one of Canada’s foremost biomedical scientists.